How to Incorporate the Right Marketing Message During a Recession

Fight or flight instincts. Survival of the fittest. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. During rough economic times, there is no doubt that survival instincts kick in. You either have the will to dig your heels in and battle from the trenches or not. Everyone’s fear threshold is different. But those who keep a strong, level-headed focus on the task at hand and don’t panic, usually weather the storm the best.

Just look at the statistics. A McGraw-Hill Research study assessed 600 companies for five years in the 1980s and those companies that either stayed the course or increased their level of advertising spending during the 1981 and 1982 recession had significantly higher sales after the recession ended. Companies that aggressively advertised during the recession had sales more than 250% higher than those who chose not to advertise. Instinct warns us to cut back, slash marketing and advertising budgets and save dollars. However, it’s been proven that continued or increased spending during tough economic times can actually help pull you through and out to the other side positively.

So how do you do it? How do you get over the desire to cut back and actually cut checks instead?

– Acknowledge the situation. Naturally, during a recession, your customers are assessing their budgets as well and are choosing carefully where to spend their money. It’s important to address this fact head on. Acknowledge to your customers that you are aware they have some tough decisions ahead. Then explain to them the benefits of continuing to invest in your services and products.

– Avoid price slashing and doomsday messaging. Negatives like price reductions send off fear signals. There’s a fine line between understanding your customers’ situations and instilling more fear about the times at hand.

– Empower your customers. Create ads, direct mail pieces, blogs, and e-newsletters that empower your customers to take control of their situation and ultimately their destiny. By offering solutions that help them do this, you are creating a positive environment that resonates in a very negative situation.

– Distinguish your value proposition. Communicating to your customers what they will get for their money is just as important, and sometimes more important, than low price points. Even when cash is tight, customers want to know they are getting the best value for their money and many will still be willing to pay a bit more knowing that there is increase value in the products and services you provide.

– Keep your lines of communication open. This means don’t stop marketing and advertising! It is critical to keep your brand top-of-mind with your customers right now so they don’t forget you. If you start to trim corners and cut back, your customers will quickly forget who you are and look elsewhere for what they need. When the recession is finally over, you’ll be left way behind.

– Re-evaluate your marketing mix. If you wrote your marketing plan last summer (or any time before October 2008), you should definitely go back and re-assess where you have allocated your energies. Could you increase your social networking exposure while saving a few dollars in print advertising? Perhaps you could eliminate one direct mail piece and swap it out for an additional three or four e-newsletters? Without drastically cutting your budget, you may be able to shift a few things that will create some savings without reduced exposure to your customers.

Whatever you do, over the next few months as you take stock in your current business situation, don’t take a red pen and slash through each line item in your marketing budget. It’s OK to trim your advertising and marketing budget, but do it with a scalpel, not meat cleaver. Instead, look at creative ways to stay the course and sail through this recession successfully. If you do, chances are, there will be better times ahead.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

What’s Your Plan?

So often we get caught up in our success or the crisis of the moment. We are reacting to everything that’s happening around us. We forget to ask ourselves, “why are we doing this?” We lose sight of our goals or we don’t update the targets. Without that awareness and ability to change and adapt, we can’t be successful.

Here’s the best part: a business plan doesn’t have to be in-depth in order to help guide you. There’s no need to think that building your plan is an overwhelming task that demands huge time or resources to develop. But the plan should include some fundamental elements, including understanding where your business comes from and the strategies and tactics you will execute in order to succeed. You’ll never know if you’re making a wrong turn or wrong investment if you don’t have a plan to benchmark.

Way back when, in the days when you first started selling, life was pretty easy. You’d grab a prospect list and, one by one, begin calling names, starting with the letter A, of course, at the top. Customers were eager to meet with you to hear what new services you had to provide, which would make their company more profitable. You knew it all back then. You were a leading sales rep, one who manufacturers sought out because of your talent and expertise in the field.

Over time, you built relationships with these contacts, slowly transitioning from the “getting to know you” stage to business partners, and now you’re friends. These are the “customers” with whom you now golf, exchange birthday cards, attend holiday parties, and know each other’s spouses and children. You have essentially taken a potential business lead and customer and turned this person into a buddy.

Now you’re scratching your head and wondering why sales calls are so hard and tedious. What made you unique years ago is now run of the mill. Superstar VARs or others selling on price have crept into your territory, grabbing your business. Internet purchasing simplifies ordering replacement parts or accessories via the Web. While your customer may value your relationship, it’s easy to save time by using the Web. Deep down, you know you can no longer act like “just a sales rep,” and need to think like a business person. You need a process and plan for overcoming changes and a way to anticipate these changes and reinforce your business value. Consultants and business planning books/templates can be overwhelming. Where do you start?

You’re already working lots of hours in the day; creating a time-consuming plan might not be a wise choice. Instead, create a business temperature check – a basic plan that helps you chart your course and determine what obstacles and benefits are in your path.

1. Create a basic plan. Let’s take a step back and think about your core beliefs and values. What vision do you have for your business? What type of company are you trying to be or become? How do you want your current and future customers to view your business? Your answers to these questions will bring your vision into focus.

2. Determine why your current customers are working with you (or looking elsewhere), and create a plan to retain them. You’ve invested time and expertise with these folks. It’s OK that they have become your buddies. Now you need to grow and nurture that special relationship into something fruitful for all.

Chances are, your manufacturer never asks you to share your business plan or marketing strategies. If asked, do you even have those in place? If not, why should your customer want to invest time and money with you? If you applied for a loan with a bank, the bank would ask you for a copy of your business plan as part of their investment strategy. Why are your manufacturers or customers any different than a bank? They’re investing in a partnership with you too. They want to know what your plan is to determine whether or not they want to work with you.

3. Take a holistic approach to finding out who you are. Look at yourself and your business and locate the gaps in your approach. It is challenging and sometimes a bit unnerving to admit to your weaknesses, but this is a fundamental business requirement. You must do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on yourself and your business in order to maintain and then grow your customer base and bottom line. What are your strengths? Play those up. What are your weaknesses? Find partners and build relationships to bridge those gaps. Where are the opportunities to grow your business? Often, these lie in correcting the weaknesses. Who or what are your major threats? Don’t be fooled. Doing a SWOT analysis on yourself is tough, but the results will be eye-opening and help provide focus for advancing your business.

4. Spend time writing down your goals. With the fast-paced change in today’s world, it pays to re-evaluate the road you’re following. Will it lead you to success or a dead end? Write down some realistic goals. Try to identify key traits that are unique to your business – things that only you can provide and determine how you can leverage those to increase your uniqueness in the market. What makes you unique in today’s market? Write it down. On paper, you may shockingly realize that you’re not that special or maybe you are, tell your story in the best way possible. Write down all the key opportunities you may have. What kind of promotions and ideas do you have that your customers would be eager to invest in? Manufacturers will look to you as the chart maker, to be in tune with the marketplace and will want you to help them see the trends coming before their competitors do. They will seek out VARs who have good channels and prosperous networks, and they will weed out those who suck up time and energy (like long, personal sales calls) that don’t bear results. It’s not just about the sales call and status quo selling anymore. You’re a smart business person. You need to focus on profits and not allow yourself to be swept up in the emotional aspect of the business.

Bottom line. Step back. Re-evaluate and make a plan. Determine what your manufacturers need and what services you have that will help them. Capitalize on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. Then use your newfound sales tools to dazzle your existing customers again like you did years ago. Deepen your customer relationships and new leads will follow.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Marketing in a Recession

What many experts have known for months, if not the past year, is that our country is officially in a recession. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced in December that we have actually been in a recession since December 2007. Many business owners probably knew this long before the Bureau’s announcement, feeling the effects of customers’ budget cuts, a higher level of anxiety within the industry, and simply an overall gloom and doom mood, no thanks to the media’s contribution as well. But what exactly is a recession and how will it affect your overall business strategy, and more specifically, your marketing plans for the next six to 12 months?

The Bureau defines an economic recession as “a significant decline in the economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP [gross domestic product] growth, real personal income, employment (non-farm payrolls), industrial production, and wholesale retail sales.” With the Big Three automakers looking for government intervention and Wall Street receiving its own government bailout, most of us don’t need a textbook definition. We’re living in a recession on a daily basis.

When Wall Street began to spiral out of control in the summer of 2008, the natural instinct of most people was to pull out of their investments- simply out of sheer panic or the scariness of the unknown. It’s a knee-jerk reaction however the response simply compounds the problem – which is exactly what you will do to your own business if you panic and pull back on your marketing efforts during these tough economic times. Let’s look at some things to consider as you re-adjust your marketing plans for the short term.

1. Avoid being reactive, which will cost you money. It’s a natural response to want to pull back on anything and everything that you don’t deem a necessity during a recession, but doing so will literally take you and your business off of the map, and possibly close to extinction. It is critical for you to portray an image to your customers that you are remaining calm and keeping a clear head during these times. Remember, your customers will look to you for support and advice in order to keep their business afloat. You want to be a resource for them, as you’ve always been, not someone who’s jumping ship and reducing all of your marketing and promotion to save a few bucks. Cutting back and reacting to every bit of news that comes your way regarding the recession will only reinforce the panic that may exist with your customers. Stay the course and think before making any decisions.

2. Communicate with your customers to let them know you’re a stable VAR that will outlast the crunch. This tactic is really a follow-up to number one. Through constant, clear communication, you need to show and tell your customers what you are doing in order to avoid conjecture as to your stability. Demonstrate why you are the VAR that will outlast the competition. What makes you unique? If you start slashing your marketing budget, you will have no point of difference to share with your customers as to why you do things differently and why they should trust you during these uncertain times. Creative communication can also position you as a resourceful VAR. For example, one of the areas most typically cut during tough financial times is the travel budget. Let your customers know you have solutions that will offset their need to travel less. Create webinars and teleclasses that allow you to communicate valuable information to your customers, positioning yourself as a leader in the industry. This small marketing expense for you will win accolades with your customers. It’s simple to do and gives you an outlet to keep the lines of communication open.

3. Whatever you do, don’t slash prices! Again, this is one of those knee-jerk reactions that becomes an epidemic and a very bad cycle to get in to. It’s natural to want to cut your prices to encourage your customers to buy from you and not your lower-priced competitors, but doing so simply exposes your desperation and also permanently lowers your street prices, ultimately devaluing your brand. Instead, look for value-added extras, so that you don’t have to cut your prices but your customers believe they’re getting more for the price. Leverage your affiliates and partners. See how you can work together to create promotions and deals that give show your customers that they’re getting more for the same price they’ve always paid.

Marketing during a recession actually calls for you to dig deep into your business and commit to the fact that you are not going to cut back on programs and promotions – and will not cut pricing. Now is the time to focus on your brand and what that brand says to your customers. What are your core products and points of difference that make you shine? Communicate these aspects to your customers and let them know that even during a time of constant flux, you are stable with your products and ideas. Steer clear of price cuts, and don’t cut quality just to save a few dollars. If your reputation was built on good, quality products and services, compromise will only devalue your brand, creating a costly rebuilding effort later. There is an end to this recession and you want to come out shining on the other side.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Get Started With Your Business Blogging – What Do I Write About?

You’re sold on the concept of blogging for your business. You’ve set up your blog template and now you’re staring at a blank screen. And it’s staring back.

I think this is probably the hardest part about blogging. Most people imagine sitting down to a computer with an empty screen and feel the heady challenge of filling a page with prolific prose – and the added weight of having to do this every other day! It can be daunting, even crippling. But if you start with a plan, that screen will become a canvas on which you can paint freely every time you sit down. To develop a plan for your blog, take a methodical approach to what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it to have the greatest impact.

Decide what you want to write about and when. Are you going to give tips to your customers that are problem-solving solutions? Do you want to discuss one of the latest trends? Is there something new on the horizon that will position you as a leading resource? Make a list of all the topics you could blog about and then start writing! It can be as simple as commenting on an article or book you’ve read, or sharing a video or quote you’ve come across. Share an anecdote or tell a story about a recent experience. Not every post needs to be an epiphany! Keep the tone light and personal, and limit your word count to 150 to 250 words per post. Here’s another tip: Having some blogs “in the can” will help balance your posts that are based on what might be happening on the immediate horizon.

Focus on your core interests and then become an expert in them. You want to be the authority and position yourself as such so that your followers continue to come back to you for the answers. Reinforce your value as a reliable, knowledgeable resource.

Be human. Give yourself a voice and be human. Blogs are not meant to be formal articles or pools of research. They are designed to give helpful information and to get the reader thinking inward about what they’re reading. Pose questions. Engage your customers to think about how they do business. Give them the opportunity to use your ideas in their business.

Give them something. A blog entry should offer your customers something of value. They are expecting to read your blog and walk away with a new tip, insight, or with something that will give them a leg up on their competition or simply inspire them to be a better person and/or business person.

Inject authority. It’s OK to give examples and information from others, just make sure you attribute it as such. In fact, share the link to those people’s sites and you could reap the rewards of connecting with their networks as well. Being “connected” with trust leaders, advocates and leaders in the field is just as important as being one yourself.

Incorporate keywords in your entries. As I mentioned before, a blog rich in relevant keywords and tags is going to give you a higher search engine ranking.

Invite others to share your ideas. Use your blog as a way to communicate with your customers and potential leads. Allow them to pose questions and comments that you can respond to and create dialog and a community. This will again build a following of like minds, with you as the leader. You can also invite “guest bloggers” to participate in your blog. Ask your vendors, colleagues, and clients to provide posts on their own expertise and you gain the benefit of the association.

Once you start, don’t stop. Your goal is to build a following of loyal customers and readers. They are going to expect something “wise” from you frequently. If you fall off the wagon, hop back on. There’s nothing worse than a neglected blog. And you will quickly lose your followers to a competitor’s blog that always has new insight.

Words to and for the Wise

Along with the content of your blog, you have the opportunity to make your website more search engine friendly just by keeping a few tips in mind:

– Create a powerful title for your blog that influences readers. Make it interesting, compelling, even a bit controversial so you can grab their interest immediately. Include keywords here as well. It will help with search engine searches.

– When you have a series of thoughts or points, present them as a bulleted list instead of a paragraph or two. This approach increases the readability.

– Add an image, if it’s appropriate and relevant. Don’t always add one but many times an interesting or entertaining image may communicate your message better than words can.

You are the expert.

Blogging allows you to showcase your expertise in your field. It affords you the opportunity to share ideas and resources openly and in an easy-going manner that is simple to read, yet rich with knowledge and insight. Some might say it’s the perfect soft sell because you’re not necessarily pushing a product or service directly. Rather, by building your platform as a credible VAR, you are gently promoting your ideas and your company. And you really will be amazed at how many topics you do have to write about.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

The Dark Side of Higher Education

Investment banks has fallen, national banks have betrayed our trust, government actions in majority of countries around the world are being frowned upon by the people (examples include the Gaza war, the Wall street bailout which is a bailout for the rich while the main street suffers the burden) and you just don’t know who the heck to trust anymore. Since you can’t put you faith in Uncle Sam or whatever, you put your trust on institutions of higher education, universities, polytechnics and others. You figure that their vaulted names are what is dependable on and they can deliver you wisdom, excellence, success and a great livelihood. The rest of the world, banks, public schools, environment, corporations etc, may be going to hell but you trust that if you try hard enough, and pay enough, you’ll get your money’s worth at universities that promises so much.

As a result of this belief, you incur tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands in student loans or loans from parents (if you have a heart, you will consider it as a loan) since it is too much a sum to pay off on your own. As what is shared with me by a senior member of a university, a student’s school fees is only a very small fraction of the amount that the university needs, with the rest coming from government(also not a very huge sum) and the private sector, foundations, companies and like (a very significant amount).

It’s just economics from here on. Times are bad. Universities are facing more and more competition, since there are many hungry wolves out there scraping for a piece of the slice of higher education industry that has a growth rate that is increasing every year. Since a significant of funds of universities come from the private sector, these institutions will not want to part with their highly paid directors who know how to develop relationships with highly generous alumni. They don’t want to scale down their astronomical building and expansion plans either. They certainly don’t want to lower tuition rates or housing or other fees.

The question now is this: Faced with more competition, more uncertainty about global outlook, more needs of funds (for the development of the infrastructure, the ever growing salary of professors and other stuff) and lesser donations from the private sector (again due to uncertainty and budget tightening), where are they going to “squeeze” the funds from?

The answer: Students. The interests of the students will be sacrificed because they are the least protected and most innocent of the whole academic community. There are numerous articles online that will support this. Sure, Yours Truly think that around 25% of them are too far from the truth, but the sheer amount of complaints, dis-satisfaction and other related articles are just too much to ignore. I don’t believe that all of these allegations are false, how can it be?

Don’t take my words at face value. I only aim to open up your mind. Do your own research online or elsewhere. Talk to people higher up in the education institutions who can be honest with you. You don’t need me to convince you, you need to convince yourself. Find out what is the state of the higher education industry right now, what wrongs are being committed against the very people who relied on them, the students.

Tales Zephyrus Lucrex is one of the 3 writers at Enxie Ferite (enxieferite.net84.net). Enxie Ferite serves as a one-stop entertainment website that consists of interesting articles of myths, humour, good-to-knows, anime and others. It also consists of music videos from English, Chinese and Japanese music.

PR Vs New Media

Many larger corporations, which have bottomless marketing budgets, incorporate massive public and media relations campaigns around new product launches, trends in the industry, and key story ideas. They “work the media,” feeding them a plate full of facts, figures, soundbites, and information in hopes of garnering the holy grail of the public relations world: the above-the-fold, front page story about their company.

Some companies use inside PR teams with directors, managers, coordinators, and interns. Others engage outside PR firms in order to craft the perfect press release, the pitch letter that an editor will drool over, or to wine and dine a group of reporters at the hippest restaurant and bar in SoHo or Chelsea. Working the media takes time and effort. It involves building tailored media lists, distributing press materials, and yes, meeting with the media and even taking them to lunch (a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it). It’s about nurturing one-on-one relationships that can sometimes take years – and money – to bear fruit.

I know, I know. You have no budget, time, or manpower for a massive PR campaign. I wouldn’t approach this topic if I didn’t have a solution here. The good news is that in today’s New Media world, the art of traditional public and media relations is changing. And it’s changing fast and for the better for small, but successful VARs like you. So I’m offering up a few tips on how to get your PR effort going without taking the traditional route.

Social media is quickly becoming a core element of communications and PR plans, which is great for you – simply because these new media tools are easy to use, don’t demand a lot of manpower, and are economical. How great is that? Blogging, social networks, and podcasts reach more customers and influencers of your product than traditional media might and require almost no out-of-pocket investment. Plus, once you take a little time to get familiar with these channels, it’s so easy to utilize them to your advantage!

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “When it comes to generating goodwill between a company, its customers, and prospects – the very essence of public relations – it’s a buyer’s market for small businesses.” For instance, one small business cut loose their PR firm which had been receiving a $6,500 monthly retainer, and replaced them with a $700-a-month line item in their budget for website maintenance. Using their up-to-date database, they began sending weekly email blasts to VIP customers and friends – again, at no cost. The results? The small company’s best PR efforts came from communicating directly with their existing customers and friends, who then forwarded those email blasts on to their friends. Special email newsletters included targeted information geared toward hitting those touchpoints that the company knew would grab the attention of its customers. They gave their customers what they wanted through links to the website and easy access to valuable information.

News “flashes” are also easy to incorporate into your PR program and search engines love them. When written thoughtfully, using keywords and phrases, and in paragraph format – one paragraph for content and one paragraph about your business – search engines will pick up on these flashes and reward you with a higher ranking in searches for your business or product. Create a “news” section on your website where these flashes can call home. Search engine crawlers visit sites that are constantly changed and that are dynamic. When crawlers see that you update your “news” section frequently, and you have carefully crafted your news to include your keywords, you quickly find that these pages will receive high rankings.

Of course, landing a feature story about your latest product in a Top 20 national newspaper (e.g., USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times) or being included in a segment on Oprah or The Today Show is worth way more than its weight in gold, but so is going directly to the world – literally – and to the newswire yourself. The Web is allowing smart VARs like you to engage with the public without the mainstream press or the PR flak who court it. With new media resources, like YouTube and Flickr, you can now deliver unedited messages in your own voice and image instead of leaving it to the press to report the story they way they think it should be told. Or you can create short videos or podcasts for your own site for customers and potential leads to download and watch. Here, you can craft your own message and become “the expert” in your field. The same holds true for blogging. Start offering some of your insightful wisdom on new trends. Customers – and search engines – and sometimes even the traditional media will come to view you as the resource in your industry. The trick is to learn to use these tools without sounding too commercial in your pitches or offerings, and then enjoy the benefits of well-crafted viral marketing take hold.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Are You Missing Out on Free Publicity?

So often, when CEOs and company presidents sit down with their marketing team, they quickly delve into the familiar marketing elements like advertising, sales promotions, and how to best maximize the company’s website. Of course. But what about publicity and public relations? These are the poor relations of the marketing family that get tossed off with an “Oh yeah, we’ll talk about that at the end if there’s time.”

No, no, and no! Studies consistently show that public relations is the most effective way to establish brand credibility, to surround a brand in a particular editorial context. Done correctly, it provides the best return for the marketing dollar spent. It is the best way to garner third-party endorsements and carries much more weight with your customer than a paid ad, snappy sales promotion, or some creation of new media. Plus, it’s virtually free!

So what is public relations (PR) or publicity anyway? And how does it work? You read an article about a competitor’s product in your regional newspaper and you wonder why the reporter didn’t write a story on your product. Well, either the reporter knew someone who knew someone who used the product, OR your competitor is more PR-savvy, sending out press releases about new, innovative products and programs or calling or emailing reporters and pitching great story ideas. If it was the latter, your competitor is using free publicity to get the word out and establish credibility for his brand – more credibility than any newspaper or TV ad could ever buy!

The Press Kit
The foundation of your publicity campaign should always be your press kit, which gives the basics about who you are, what you do and why you are unique. In the old days of PR, this press kit would be sent in mass quantity to hundreds of media outlets. Press releases would be copied and stuffed into a fancy folder with the company logo on it, for the reporter or editor to read at their leisure. Well, as you probably can imagine, no reporter in today’s media-frenzied world is going to have time to sit with a cup of coffee and read your press kit. If they do have that time, they’re surely reading something more in lines of a New York Times bestseller. That said, you should still have a press kit, just house it on your website. Journalists can easily seek out the facts and supporting material they might need for their story – at their convenience. Many times your press kit may just be a reworked version of your web copy, eliminating the marketing jargon and giving the information a more factual spin.

Press Releases
Once you’ve built your foundation, you’ll begin to develop a series of press releases – various articles that you can send to the media on a regular basis that are newsworthy and spark interest for the reporter. If sent out on a regular basis, these releases will keep your company or your product top of mind with the media. Soon they will begin to think, “Hmmm, could there be a story idea here?” Regular distribution also helps to build relationships with the media. The more you get to know the core group of reporters and editors who cover your territory or your industry, the more you’ll be in tune with their needs, and be able to filter newsworthy information to them, versus guessing what they might like to receive. The best publicity campaign is one built on facts, but also on who you know and anticipating their needs.

Publicity Stunts, Promotions and Other Free Opportunities
While the backbone of PR lies in the initial press release, there are many ways to create news from scratch. I’ve seen big racing yachts used to promote free glaucoma screenings to create awareness about new drugs and a pharmaceutical company. One company created a “Love Stinks” promotion for Valentine’s Day, where readers had to write why they actually hated Valentine’s Day, and the winner took home a grand prize – for one. Both received widespread “ink” in regional and national publications.

Also, make sure you’re listed in all the places you can be for free. It sounds simple but it’s one of the most common publicity tactics that is overlooked. And get all you can out of the places you are paying for. If you’re running a half-page ad in next month’s industry newsletter, ask which reporter can work with you to write a news story to go with it. And finally, know who the gatekeepers are within each media outlet or organization and what they can (and can’t) do for you.

Bottom line – ask yourself, “Do I have something interesting to say? What makes my business unusual?” If you have a good idea or newsworthy item, talk about it! Remember, if a picture says a thousand words, then an above-the-fold story in the New York Times says cha-ching!

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Free Publicity With Press Releases

An effective strategy for free publicity is to write and send press releases. A press release, sometimes called a news release or media release, is an announcement of something important.

Here are 5 key points for a good press release so that the one your send will get read and distributed.

First you need to write a great headline. I say great because you need to attract the attention of a reporter or editor and you have lots of competition. Be sure to put the topic in the headline so that it contains some key words and can get the attention of Google.

Secondly, make sure your story is newsworthy to an audience that is bigger than your niche. That means the story needs to be current and appealing. Trendy would even be better.

The third important point is to avoid jargon and techno babble. The media does not have time to figure this out and neither do your readers.

Just in case it should slip your mind, do not make the press release a blatant advertisement.

And finally, make sure your press release is well written. If you are not a good writer, then hire someone to do the writing for you.

Before you start writing the press release, make sure you have all the pertinent information for the announcement. You need to give what every journalist wants: the who, where, when and how.

Then figure out what are the appropriate media outlets to send your press release.

You can write press releases with any of the following strategies for creating a hook so that the reporter or editor will certainly want to read your press release. These strategies are using a controversy, survey or research results. What also works well are announcements about an award, announcing a new position, a new blog, and a new website. Press releases can get fairly boring without a good hook.

Social Media Releases is gaining popularity and visibility. Some view it as an alternative to traditional web sites. Social Media Releases are similar to traditional releases except they reach more people.

Social Media Releases are often linked to Social Networks and when that network discusses your topic, you are likely to be very successful getting the attention of hundreds in the forum. As the name implies, Social Media Releases focus on the social aspect of information. There are also social media newsrooms where you can post your releases. Make sure your keywords are written in the press release.

The directories for news releases, most of which are free but some will charge. Fees may range from $80 a release to $1000 for an annual membership.

And I invite you to claim your free Special Report on Building Your Online Empire as well as a recording of this information, by visiting http://www.InternetBusinessBuildingGuide.com and get started right away with building a profitable online business. Connie Ragen Green has been teaching people how to use their writing to get started on the internet since 2006, as well as how to use the technology needed to be successful on the internet.